June 16, 2005.
Faced with growing political support for Hamas and mounting lawlessness in
its territories, the Palestinian Authority is sending signals that can only
undermine attempts to end terrorism.
Over the weekend, Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa – a nephew of the late
Yasser Arafat – said that the PA has no intention of disarming terrorist groups
like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as required under the U.S.-sponsored “road
map” peace plan.
To the contrary – he declared: “Using arms under occupation is legal,”
adding: “It is our people’s right to defend themselves under occupation.”
The PA, under President Mahmoud Abbas, continues to finesse its way around
its road-map obligations.
Abbas wants to co-opt the terrorists – no easy task as Hamas gains power at
the polls. So far, he’s managed to keep a lid on terrorist attacks against Israel.
But for how long?
In the past few months, Abbas has shuffled the Palestinian security hierarchy.
But he refuses to crack down, even as gangs foment violence against their
fellow Palestinians in cities like Ramallah.
Even the much-vaunted “ceasefire” announced four months ago by Abbas and
Hamas appears to be an essentially tactical ploy, meant to last only until Israel
disengages from Gaza in August.
Indeed, PA security chief Jibril Rajoub admitted as much this week: “We
should let the occupation leave quietly,” he said. “After the Israeli withdrawal,
we can sit and evaluate things the same way we did when we agreed on the
But the Palestinians have got to understand that, absent the dismantling of
Hamas, Israel won’t be obligated to undertake any further moves.
President Bush last month had an opportunity to publicly pressure Abbas
during their joint press conference at the White House. But, asked whether he
had stressed to the PA leader the need to move forcefully against terrorism,
Bush chose instead to praise Abbas’ commitment to democracy.
Terrorism and democracy can’t exist side-by-side, no matter what kind of
faustian deals are cut. In the end, the terrorist menace is as great a menace to
Palestinian moderation as it is to Israel.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made that abundantly clear during a trip
to the region last week, saying that his country won’t talk with Hamas unless
it renounces violence and renounces its calls for Israel’s destruction.
“The fact that a terror organization stands in elections doesn’t mean it
ceases to be a terror organization,” said Straw.
But the obligation to eliminate this threat falls squarely to Mahmoud
It’s a thankless task, to be sure, and one fraught with personal political peril.
But it’s a task that can’t be avoided if the Palestinians are to achieve genuine
peace – with the Israelis, and among themselves.